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became known as the Interstate Public Service

In Dixie Flyer service, this Interstate train included a Cincinnati combine and the
parlor-buffet car Jeffersonville. O. F. Lee Collection.


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During the '20's the Insull management initiated
an equipment program for the Interstate that in-
cluded thorough rebuilding of many existing cars
and acquisition of some of the finest examples of
heavy steel interurban car construction ever produced.
Among them ivere a half dozen parlor-buffet cars
which operated five daily round trips on the Dixie
and Hoosier Flyers, and three sleepers for an over-
night service between Indianapolis and Louisville.
Since it was hardly possible to spend the entire night
on the 117-mile journey, the sleepers were placed in
sidings along the route during the night and brought
into the terminals on the first train in the morning.
A new steel combine, a rebuilt coach, a sleeper, and
a parlor-buffet car respectively were included in
the line-up for this publicity photograph. O. F. Lee

In 1925 the large traction holdings of the Insull in-
terests in northern and central Indiana were further
expanded with the purchase of the Indiana Service
Corporation. In common with other Insull inter-
urban acquisitions, ISC received extensive improve-
ments, including heavy steel cars to re-equip prin-
cipal schedules. Among them were the magnificent
cars in this 1926 photograph. Both the combine and
the parlor-buffet car Little Turtle, newly delivered
by the St. Louis Car Company, were employed in
the Wabash Valley Flyer service operated between
Fort Wayne and Indianapolis via Peru in conjunc-
tion with the Union Traction Company. IT pro-
vided equivalent equipment for the similar jointly
operated Hoosierland service via Bluff ton. These
and other imperious ISC "flyer" schedules deigned
to stop only at county seats and points of similar
importance. George Krambles Collection.


The oldest portion of the Indianapolis-Louisville
route was the Indianapolis, Columbus & Southern
Traction Company, which on the first day of the
new century had operated the first interurban car
ever to reach Indianapolis. The triumphal arrival
was not without difficulty, for the big interurban
proved to be too wide to clear the overhead poles
located in the center of the street. In order to squeeze

the car by, workmen had to remove its handrails,
and passengers were obliged to shift to the far side
of the car. Further complications arose when the in-
terurban reached the Belt Railroad. The car was
forced to jump the rails, since the crossing had not
yet been installed. The company's No. 21, a hand-
some Pullman green coach, is shown in Indianapolis
streets. William D. Middleton Collection.

Less altered than most cars under the THI&E modernization program was No. 29, the Hendricks, seen

taking the curve at Market and Capitol in Indianapolis. Despite scuffs and abrasions of long years of

service, the car still bore an air of dignity lent by the classic Gothic lines of its Cincinnati builders.

Jeffrey K. Winslow Collection.


Most interurbans were constructed for motives of
profit to their stockholders, hut the Winona Inter-
urban Railway , which operated between Goshen
and Peru, Ind., was devoted to more lofty objectives.
The railway was constructed by the Winona As-
sembly and Summer School Session, and its profits
went to the operation of a trade school for the ed-
ucation of underprivileged children. During the
company's early years its hidebound directors re-
fused to operate on Sundays, and not until bond-

holders brought suit, alleging that the policy had
caused the road to fail to meet interest payments,
did they relent. To operate a new Goshen-lndian-
apolis through service with the Union Traction
Company in 1910, the Winona acquired a pair of
named wooden Jewett interurbans of the parabolic-
nosed "u'indsplitter" design. The Warsaw is shown
here stuck tight in drifts not far from its name-
sake city during the big snow of 1918. Van Dusen

Among Indiana interurbans the Terre Haute, In-
dianapolis & Eastern Traction Company was second
in size only to Union Traction. Formation of
THI&E was begun in 1907, and by the time the
system was completed in 1912, its lines extended
from Paris, 111., across central Indiana almost to the
Ohio border. The Terre Haute-Paris branch fell
only 20 miles short of a connection with William B.
McKinley's Illinois Traction System, which would
have permitted continuous electric travel all the
way to St. Louis and Peoria, but the break was
never closed. A plan for a more direct connecting
line from Crawfordsville to Danville, 111., also was
unfulfilled, although the idea was kept alive until
as late as 1928. Never a particularly profitable in-

terurban, THI&E was unable to follow the example
of the other major Indiana electrics, which invested
in heavy steel rolling stock for their principal sched-
ules during the '20's. Instead, the company began
a sweeping modernization program for its hetero-
geneous roster of elderly wooden rolling stock for
service on such celebrated THI&E limiteds as the
Highlander, the Tecutnseh Arrow, and the Ben-Hur
Special, the last named for the protagonist of the
famous novel written by Gen. Lew Wallace of Craw-
fordsville. A splashy chrome yellow and black col-
or scheme was applied and the cars were given
names selected to honor the territory served, its in-
stitutions, distinguished historical figures, and oc-
casionally a deceased company executive.

The abrupt decline of the Indiana interurbans
during the latter part of the '20's presented Samuel
Insull's Midland United Corporation with an op-
portunity to carry forward a grand plan for a uni-
fied Indiana interurban network. The earliest Insull
interest in Hoosier traction properties dated to 1903,
but not until the mid-'20's were his Indiana hold-
ings greatly expanded. Union Traction went into
receivership in 1925, and after acquiring the system
for a bargain price in 1930, Midland United was able
to use it as the heart of a consolidation of the Insull
lines into the remarkable Indiana Railroad system.
The lines of the Indiana Service Corporation and
the Northern Indiana Power Company extended
IRR domination throughout much of north central
Indiana and to points north of Fort Wayne, and the
Indianapolis-Louisville line of the Interstate carried
the new system to the Ohio River. The Fort Wayne-
Lima Railroad was operated under IRR supervision,
but remained independent. The purchase of the
bankrupt THI&E in 1931 added trackage extending
across the breadth of central Indiana, and for a few
years after 1936 the lease of the Dayton & Western
carried IRR into Ohio.

An ambitious program was evolved for modern-
ization of the Indiana system. Weak and clearly
hopeless lines were abandoned forthwith, while
major improvements were planned for those which
were thought to have a future. New equipment,
track and power improvements, belt lines and re-
routings, and reduction of excessive curves and
grades were all part of the contemplated program.
An ultimate aim of IRR management was to
straighten and improve the system's major trunk
routes to permit the operation of standard steam rail-
road freight equipment. The most immediate IRR
improvements were new schedules that were better
co-ordinated than those of the previously independ-
ent companies, and by the summer of 1931 a million-
dollar investment in 35 magnificent lightweight,

In depression times IRR traffic was only rarely suf-
ficient to require multiple-unit operation of the line's
lightweight cars. A three-car train was photographed
at Rock Cut, west of Greencastle, on a railroad en-
thusiast excursion. George Krambles Collection.

high-speed cars went into service on the principal In-
dianapolis-Louisville and Indianapolis-Fort Wayne
lines. Another half million was spent for power sup-
ply and track improvements on the same lines.
Freight traffic was aggressively solicited, and in 1933
drastic passenger fare reductions were made. In
1936 older steel equipment was refurbished and con-
verted to one-man operation.

But modernization of the Indiana system started
too late. Even as the system was being formed
the nation was plunging into a deepening depres-
sion. The Insull utilities empire collapsed in 1932,
before the needed Indiana Railroad improvements
had barely been started. By 1933 the IRR was in
receivership, and only once in its existence — in
1936 — did the system show a profit. From a brief
peak of over 800 miles of track Indiana Railroad
mileage rapidly declined as line after line was given
up, and after barely a decade of operation the last
IRR passenger service was ended in 1941, on the
eve of World War II.



Southbound to Louisville as the Dixie Flyer, In-
diana Railroad lightweight No. 68 took a sharp
curve at Sellersburg, a few miles north of the Ohio
River. Barney Neuberger Collection.


In 1935 IRR secured two Railway Post Office contracts, between Fort Wayne-New
Castle and Indianapolis-Peru, given up by the Nickel Plate Railroad. To operate
the service four former Indiana Service Corporation combines were rebuilt with
RPO compartments. A fan excursion brought the 376 to the White River
bridge near Anderson. The Union Traction name was still visible on the bridge.


The company's glittering parlor car 7500, available for official duties or charter service, was
fitted with deep solarium windows at the front end and this elegant observation platform
at the rear. George Krambles Collection.

Detroit United's finest line was the Detroit, Mon-
roe & Toledo Short Line, built with a maximum
grade of 1 per cent and standards of curvature
which obviated speed restrictions. The line was well
graded and track was laid with 70-pound rail and
rock ballast. About half of the route was double
tracked, and grade crossings with other railways
were avoided. Beginning in 1911 frequent through
limited service was operated between Detroit and
Cleveland over the connecting Lake Shore Electric
Railway, and for a few years after 1930 through
Detroit-Cincinnati cars were operated with the new
C&LE. Rebuilt Kuhlman steel car 8005 was operated
in a de luxe, reserved-seat chair-car service between
Detroit and Toledo installed during the mid-'20's.
George Krambles Collection.

The large interurban system of the Detroit
United Railways, which was assembled in 1901 by
the Everett-Moore syndicate from a wide variety of
predecessor companies, radiated from the city in all
directions and even had a Canadian affiliate, the
Sandwich, Windsor & Amherstburg Railway, which
operated along the Ontario shore of the Detroit
River. Detroit was one of the earliest traction cen-
ters, and almost all of its interurban lines were built
in the '90's or the first few years of the new century.
Detroit also, of course, became one of the early
automobile centers, and its interurbans turned out
to be some of the first casualties among major Mid-
western systems.

Detroit United car 7794 made a special trip over branch-line trackage which was an extreme example of
the meandering, hill-and-dale, roadside variety of interurban construction. BARNEY NEl'BERGER Collection.


In the areas west and north of the territory served
by the Detroit United system, extensive interurban
operations were conducted by the Michigan Rail-
ways system, whose main routes north from Flint
and Jackson, and west from Jackson, served as ex-
tensions of the Detroit system. The company, whose
corporate structure and history were among the
most involved in Midwestern traction, was distin-
guished by a large mileage of third-rail track and
by some notable — though generally unsuccessful —
experiments in high voltage, direct current systems.
Several of the Michigan Railways' main routes
were constructed to some of the highest standards
in the industry, and the company was among the
earliest to make wide use of steel equipment. At
one time the Michigan Railways entertained am-
bitions of an electric line across the state connecting
Kalamazoo with a Lake Michigan port or, even bet-
ter, with Chicago. For this purpose the company in
1911 leased a steam railroad, the Kalamazoo, Lake
Shore & Chicago, which reached South Haven on
Lake Michigan and connected with the Benton Har-
bor-St. Joe interurban at Paw Paw Lake Junction.
Plans to electrify the line were never carried out,
and after five years of operation with steam equip-
ment, the lease was given up.

These splendid Niles interurbans were operated by Michigan Railways in through Bay City-
Detroit service. From Bay City to Flint the journey was made over the company's Northeast-
ern Division, which employed both overhead trolley and third-rail power distribution, while the
remainder of the trip was made over Detroit United rails. George Krambles Collection.

One of the most magnificently engineered lines
of the interurban era was the Michigan Railways'
Western Division, which opened a 50-mile main
line between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids in 1915.
Track was built on a 100-foot-wide private right
of way and laid with 80-pound rail, with a maximum
curvature of 3 degrees and maximum grades of 1
per cent. Rural portions of the line were provided
with a unique 2400-volt D.C. third-rail system. So
extreme was the resulting safety hazard that passen-
gers at way stations were loaded from enclosed floor
level "safety platforms" which have been described
as reminiscent of cattle pens. Conductors unlocked
a switch lock to drop the front side of the en-
closure, which formed a bridge between the plat-
form and the car floor for boarding passengers. Even
more serious were the frequent cases of an arc
striking from the third rail to journal boxes.

This burned away the box and then the end of
the axle. To extinguish the arc motormen laid a
metal bar between the third rail and a running rail,
which short-circuited the power feed and tripped
the substation breakers, killing the power supply on
the line. After a year of such difficulties, the line
was converted to 1200-volt power. A 44-mile branch
between Allegan and Battle Creek, purchased from
the Michigan Central, was similarly electrified. The
Kalamazoo-Grand Rapids main line was designed
for maximum speeds of 90 miles per hour, and even
though actual maximum speeds were lower than
this figure, the line was one of the fastest of all in-
terurbans. "Flyer" schedules between the two cities
covered the 50-mile route in 1 hour 10 minutes,
and for several years during the '20's the company
was among the top five in the U. S. in the annual
Electric Traction speed trophy competition.

On display in Grand Rapids for a 1922 convention is one of the seven huge coach-parlor-obser-
vation cars delivered in 1914-1915 by the St. Louis Car Company for limited service over the
Western Division. Weighing 70 tons, and over 67 feet in length, they were the heaviest inter-
urban cars ever built. Although of all-steel construction, they were provided with scribed
sides to simulate wood siding. George Krambles Collection.


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The only connection between Michigan and the
traction network of Indiana was provided by the
Southern Michigan Railway, which operated from
South Bend to St. Joseph, Mich. In 1914 the com-
pany was among those that joined in the operation of
the new Cannonball Express, an overnight inter-
urban fast freight which operated between Indian-

apolis and Benton Harbor, where a connection
was made with Chicago steamships. Brand new
from the St. Louis Car Company, interurban No. 304
passed through Niles, Mich., in 1906 on one of the
first through trips over the newly completed line
between South Bend and St. Joseph. George
Krambles Collection.

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The Rock Island Southern Railway, whose main
line between Rock Island and Monmouth, III.,
opened in 1910, employed steam power for freight
trains, but the W'estinghouse single-phase alternat-
ing current system was installed for passenger trains.
RIS was the last interurban to begin operation with
an alternating current poiver system, which by this
time had proven considerably less satisfactory than

the direct current systems then available. Six big
Niles "Electric Pullmans," acquired secondhand
from Washington, Haiti more & Annapolis, operated
the infrequent passenger schedules. Here, one of
them crosses the Pope Creek trestle. The electrifica
lion was junked in 1926, but steam freight opera-
tion continued for another quarter century. Wil-
liam D. Miudleton Collection.


To Green and Rural Places

Among the finest of Midwest traction properties
was the elaborate system of The Milwaukee Elec-
tric Railway & Light Company, which between 1896
and 1909 constructed some 200 miles of high-speed
interurban routes running from Milwaukee to Ke-
nosha, Burlington, East Troy, and Watertown, Wis.
The Milwaukee Northern Railway, which com-
pleted a line north along Lake Michigan to Sheboy-
gan in 1908, was merged with TMER&L in 1928.

Projected Milwaukee Electric extensions to Chi-
cago, Lake Geneva, Beloit, Madison, and Fond du
Lac were never built; instead, most were eventually
reached with joint rail-bus services. In 1922 the
company began a massive improvement program for
its interurban lines, expending in the vicinity of
6 million dollars before the depression finally halted
work. A superb new rapid-transit right of way was
built for the interurban routes from the west, bring-
ing them within a few blocks of the company's
downtown Milwaukee terminal. To the south a new


The Milwaukee Northern's Lake Shore Limited was
one of several extra-fare, parlor car limited schedules
installed by the company in a 1923 burst of com-
petitive spirit. Close connections were made at Mil-
waukee with the North Shore Line's parlor and din-
ing car limited trains to Chicago. With but one
scheduled stop en route, the MN limiteds covered the
57 miles to Sheboygan in only 1 hour 39 minutes,
despite extended street running in Milwaukee.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Deck-roofed TMER&L interurban No. 1101
is seen operating on the line to Oconomowoc
and Water town shortly after the line's con-
version in 1910 to the 1200-volt D.C. system
from the unsatisfactory 3300-volt single-phase
A.C. power supply originally provided.
During the company's great improvement
program of the '20's, cars of this type were
rebuilt into the handsome cars of entirely dis-
similar appearance shown on the next few
pages. General Electric Company.

10 1 2-mile belt line around South Milwaukee and
Cudahy cut 30 minutes from timings on the route
to Racine and Kenosha. A similar project on the
Sheboygan line and a half-mile subway into the
terminal from the western route were both started
in 1930 but were never completed. Elsewhere on
the system the original interurban lines were recon-
structed with heavier rail and new ballast. Block
signals were installed and the system's power sup-
ply improved. Forty-one interurban passenger cars
were completely rebuilt in company shops, re-

ceiving new motors, trucks, and controls. Exterior
appearance of the cars was completely altered, and
interiors were refinished and fitted with new leather
bucket seats. Eight secondhand steel cars were
rebuilt into 84-passenger articulated units, and a
few new steel cars were purchased or manufactured
in company shops, including a pair of articulated
coach-diner units for through limited service be-
tween Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, and Water-
town, where a Madison bus connection was

Work was still under way on the Milwaukee Electric's new rapid-transit route to
West Junction when this rebuilt motor car and trailer came out of the shops for
a 1926 inspection trip. Car 1111 was soon nicknamed the Four Aces by crews.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

West of the city proper. Milwaukee Electric interurbans shared their superb rapid-transit right of u.n
with the company's massive high-tension towers, resulting in some impressive scenes of heavy-duty
electric railroading. The single car in this scene, 1119, was eastbound at 40th Street in 1948.
William D. Middleton.


One of the articulated "duplex" units rebuilt by TMER&L shops from conventional equipment in 1929
crossed the substantial steel structure that carried the rapid-transit route over the Menomonee River
and the Milwaukee Road main line. William D. Middleton.


Among the extensively rebuilt
Milwaukee Electric inter ur bans
of the '20's were four of these
parlor-observation cars for lim-
ited train service on the Racine-
Kenosha and Watertown lines.
The Mendota was rebuilt in 1 924
from a coach almost identical in
appearance to that shown on
page 167. In 1941 the Mendota
was sold to the London & Port
Stanley in Ontario, but is now
back in home territory in the
ownership of a Chicago histori-
cal group. To accommodate ex-
tremes in Great Lakes weather,
TM cars were fitted with re-
movable screens and storm
windows. George Krambles

Inbound from Hales Corners in
1949, a Milwaukee Electric in-
terurban crossed over the
Chicago & North Western at
West Junction on a bridge that
was clearly constructed to accom-
modate future multiple track.
The structure was part of a
mile-long cutoff completed in
1927 which afforded Burlington
and East Troy interurbans ac-
cess to the new rapid-transit
entry to Milwaukee, cutting 23
minutes from previous running
times via city streets. Wil-
liam D. Middleton.

The two near tracks west of
Soldiers Home carried interur-
ban traffic, while the remainder
accommodated West Allis local
cars. The W aukesha-bound car
appeared in the Milwaukee
Electric' S bright yellow and
green postwar color scheme,
which replaced the more digni-
fied Pullman green with yellow
trim of ear Her years. WIL-
LIAM D. Middleton.



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Southbound from Port Washington on the last
day of operation of former Milwaukee Northern
trackage in 1 948, a Milwaukee Electric inter urban
rumbled across the Milwaukee River bridge near
Grafton, providing the scene for what is among
the finest of all Milwaukee Electric photographs.
These through truss spans were nearly 100 years
old. They were built in the WW's for the Michi-
gan Central Railroad and were purchased second-
hand for $5722 by the MN in 1906. GEORGE

Following World War II, TMER&L's Waukesha and Hales
Corners routes, all that remained of the original W atertown,
East Troy, and Burlington lines, were operated briefly by
two bus companies before becoming the Milwaukee Rapid
Transit & Speedrail Company in 1949. The Speedrail effort
to rebuild the property into a profitable concern ended
ignomiuiously with a disastrous wreck in 1950, bankruptcy,
and final abandonment in 1951. Lightweight cars operated
most of the schedules under Speedrail management. This
Cincinnati car departing from the Milwaukee terminal, in-
terestingly enough, had replaced heavy steel cars on the
Indianapolis & Southeastern in 1929, which were then re-
built into articulated units by Milwaukee Electric. After
passing through the hands of two Ohio companies in the in-
tervening 20 years, the lightweights turned up in Milwau-
kee in 1949 to again displace the same heavyweight equip-
ment. William D. Middleton.


:. w rtti

This particularly attractive interurban, built by Cin-
cinnati in 1908, operated over the Sheboygan Light, Pow-
er & Railway Company's interurban line to Plymouth
and Elkhart Lake, the northernmost point from Chicago
that could be reached by continuous electric travel. The
photograph was taken at the Sheboygan depot. Frank E.
Butts Collection.

Traction on the Iron Range

One of Greyhound's earliest victims was the
little-known Mesaba Electric Railway, which
opened a 35-mile line across the Missabe Range
of northern Minnesota in 1913. The well-
constructed line between Hibbing and Gil-
bert employed 70-pound rail and gravel bal-
last, and cars were provided with a cab signal
system. In deference to the Minnesota winters,

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Online LibraryWilliam D. MiddletonThe interurban era → online text (page 9 of 23)